Home of the Year 2014: Best New Build
Homeowners Gino and Mali Torriero bring to life a modern, green-conscious design and open floor plan to accommodate their young family.
/ photos by denmarsh and Mali Torriero /
Gino and Mali Torriero’s vision for their home incorporated green elements to make the design functional and beautiful. “It’s a beautiful, clean, contemporary design with excellent use of daylight and captured views,” says Home of the Year judge Stephen Lee, adding that the house is “on the cutting edge of green design.”
Gino Torriero is a builder, and his wife Mali is an architect. The combination works well when it comes to designing homes — for themselves as well as others.
“We like working together,” says Mali. “We really complement each other because he’s really good with design, but when it comes to putting things together I can help.”
“We like the same style,” her husband adds.
They began construction of their family’s most recent home, nestled in the woods of Cecil Township, last summer and completed it by Christmas. Mali, who owns and operates Luca Construction and Design out of their home, designed the modern space with floor-to-ceiling glass windows in nearly every room. Gino’s commercial construction company, Nello Construction of Canonsburg, built the home at a cost of $850,000.
Before moving in, the couple and their sons, Nello, 4, and Luca, 7, lived a mile away in another home they designed and built. Although the family had been there for only about four years, Mali says she soon got the itch for a new design.
“We keep saying we’re going to stay in [one home] because we love it,” she says, although that plan never seems to stick for long because she and her husband have so many ideas and are eager to experiment with them.
Their last home, also a modern design, sold in a matter of weeks, making it easy for the Torrieros to ready themselves for a new build and a move.
In their most recent endeavor, they wanted to incorporate plenty of open space to accommodate a growing and active family, as well as many smaller details that reflect their preferences. Mali doesn’t like clutter, so all of the kitchen cabinets are flush-panel. The boys’ playroom has lots of cubby space for toys.
“It’s nice because they have their own space,” says Mali. “We’re finding [that] with children, their needs change and our needs change, which is another nice thing about an open plan.”
The children even have a rare space of their own: As a Christmas present, Gino built an indoor ice-skating rink in the back of the family’s lower garage.
Kitchen appliances are built into the IKEA cabinetry, which has been augmented with walnut door fronts from California-based Semihandmade. The couple says they love appliances and often choose them before a build. Their kitchen includes ample counter space to accommodate their love for entertaining.
A large balcony, which sits off to the side of the living room, is accessible only from the inside of the house, providing a vantage point for Mali to watch as the boys play in the yard.
“It’s set very beautifully on the property,” Home of the Year judge Louis J. Talotta says of the home. “The environment was very pleasant.”
Many of the home’s features also reflect Mali’s concern for preserving the environment and its resources.
Polished concrete floors on the main level heat up on sunny days and stay warm into the evening. The white EPDM rubber roof reflects sunlight, which keeps the home cool in the summer. All plumbing fixtures are low-flow, and the family uses a greywater system, which recycles rain water for reuse.
“It takes all the rain water from the roof and [directs it] to the toilets and laundry,” says Gino.
Windows on the main level are designed to face opposite one another, allowing prevailing breezes to flow through and cool the atmosphere inside. Lee, another of the Home of the Year judges, noted the “excellent use of daylight” that illuminates open spaces.
“Some things just make sense,” says Mali. “There are little things like that that people don’t realize you can fit into your design. . . A lot of it is just good design practice.”
Natural light — also an important “green” feature — is admitted to almost all interior spaces, including the laundry room situated in the center of the upper level, which has skylights.
“I can work in here without turning a light on,” says Mali.
Insulated concrete form walls, which conserve energy by sustaining interior temperature and keeping air leaks to a minimum, make up the majority of the home’s exterior. The outer surface is covered with hand-burnt cedar siding, which acts as a rainscreen and keeps moisture under control.
“It’s a really beautiful and technically proficient use of a wood-clad rainscreen,” says Lee.
The couple made sure they didn’t cut down many trees, and their driveway sits on a logging path that already existed.
“We like natural materials and just taking the time to design how we live,” says Mali. “I do that for all my clients.”
Installing the home’s greywater system required considerable attention to detail to ensure the right pipes went to the right places, but otherwise construction posed no major challenges, Mali says.
“Communication is a huge key factor in that,” she says. “Both Gino and I were out here every day, all the time, just making sure things were getting done the way we needed them to.”
In addition to being functional, the home’s modern design also is beautiful. One can’t-miss feature in the living room is the ethanol gas fireplace that rises from the floor to the ceiling. It’s visible through the entryway, framed by the 5-by-11-foot steel-and-glass front door that pivots on a center joint, rather than swinging to open and close.
Inside, the 4,500-square-foot home has five bedrooms: The master bedroom, two for the boys (although they decided they wanted to share bunk beds and moved into one) and two guest/nanny rooms, each with their own bathroom, on the lower level.
The master bedroom has two closets and large windows on both sides of the room. The walnut ceiling extends seamlessly to one wall, enhancing the room’s cozy feel. Mali’s office on the upper level opens to another balcony overlooking the horse farm across the road, and the couple’s bathroom has a small patio as well.
The property spans 10 acres — so if the Torrieros ever decide to build again, the new construction may be very close.
“I feel blessed to get to do what I do,” says Mali. “I love helping clients feel happy with their spaces.”
“And I love to build, so it’s great to be able to do it for ourselves,” says Gino.
Architect: Luca Construction and Design
Contractor: Nello Construction
Electrician: McMurray Electric, Inc.
Plumber: VW Plumbing and Excavating, LLC
HVAC: Diesel’s Heating And Air Inc.
Flooring and painting: Don Greer’s Fashion Floors
Garage doors: Thomas V. Giel Corp.
Landscaping: 4-Seasons Landscape
Asphalt driveway: T.A. Robinson Asphalt Paving, Inc.
Steel railings and ornamental steel: TC Stein Industries, LLC
Concrete ICF walls: TEK Construction Services, LLC
Greywater system: Stark Environmental, LLC
Next: Best Renovation